This story is problematic on many levels. First, it hypes the possibility that dangerous Latino gangs might be in Grand Rapids. The use of what FOX 17 claims is footage from a gang initiation video shows what are believed to be gang members beating someone on the ground. Viewers should ask themselves how channel 17 got a copy of the video, or if it was just a clip they got from another news service.
Second, the story is problematic in that they only provide the perspectives of 2 different law enforcement officials. What difference might it have made for viewers to hear from community based organizations or people who work with youth in the community?
Third, this story has the potential of perpetuating stereotypes about Latinos and urban youth. Several times when law enforcement officials are talking, the video footage shows urban youth, like the still photo included here. These images make the assumption that all urban youth, especially those wearing sports jerseys, are involved in gangs. Viewers should ask themselves why did channel 17 choose to use these clips of urban youth while talking about gangs? These kinds of stories which portray youth in a negative light generally outweigh positive stories and we have found in our own study as well as other media
Representation of youth research. Another way these stories stereotype is in the area of racial representation. We have documented that Latinos and minorities in general receive limited coverage in local news stories and when they do they disproportionately are represented in a negative way, generally as criminals. National groups such as the Association of Hispanic Journalists have documented similar trends in their annual studied known as Brown Out.
WXMI 17 News reader – Tonight new ways to combat an old problem…gangs. Two branches of the Federal government joining the fight with local police investigating and prosecuting gang members. Agents say the problem is getting worse.
Reporter – Agents with the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, cracking down on Latino gang members like the ones in this initiation video throughout the countries biggest cities. They have been so successful they are now going to focus on gangs in all cities, including Grand Rapids. Especially members of international gangs from Honduras and Mexico, like MS 13 and SUR 13, what they call the most violent in Grand Rapids.
US Immigration & Customs Official – I would look over my shoulder, realizing that we will use every resource at our disposal to bring you to justice.
Reporter – The Kent County jail keeps track of 44 gangs, a lot of their members locked up here every month. ICE agents in Grand Rapids hope to use their federal authority to enforce criminal and immigration laws to put members behind bars or out of the country for good.
US Immigration & Customs Official – I would put on notice any gang member in Western Michigan. If you are here, if you pose a threat to public safety…ICE is going to look at you.
Reporter – And they are going to use any resource they can identify, deter and prosecute. They call their mission Operation Community Shield, but they’ll need help from local officers.
US Immigration & Customs Official – The federal resources are just not that great, so we have to work closely with our partners in state and local law enforcement.
Reporter – And federal ICE agents aren’t the only ones investigating the gang situation here in Grand Rapids. Soon the US Attorney’s office will be here as well. They have been ordered by the Attorney general to create a gang task force this summer to help combat the problem.
US Attorney’s Office – So we’re in the process now of evaluating the extend to which we have a problem and then by the end of July this year we are supposed to send in an initiative to the Attorney General telling him what we intend to do about it.
Reporter – US Attorneys say they need a unique plan. Most of the gangs in Grand Rapids are neighborhood based gangs in neighborhoods they hope to clean up.
US Attorney’s Office – They can’t affect a neighborhood in an unsafe way yet, more directly than perhaps some national gangs which are focused on bigger crimes, different crimes.
Reporter – In Grand Rapids, Dan Krauth, Fox 17 news at Ten.
WXMI 17 News reader – Officers say there are about 3,000 gang members in the Grand Rapids area.
Total time – 2 minutes and 26 seconds